A version of this post was published in the 2017 Spring edition of The Bark Magazine. I have slightly altered the content from the original piece.
Surprisingly, finding hotels that allow pets on the road has not been quite as difficult as we thought it might be. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had days where we’ve spent a good hour having doors slammed in my face the moment I mention the word “dog.” For the most part, however, we’ve had quite a bit of success finding hotels or campgrounds that allow us to stay with Sora.
The places that have flabbergasted us most are the accommodations that have dogs themselves. We figure, if they have dogs, then they like animals, and so will allow us to stay with ours. Not always so. More often than not, we are told that their dogs are not friendly with other dogs or one dog is mean. However, this has worked for us on numerous occasions and is worth a shot when seeking a warm bed for the night. If their dog isn’t friendly, they may know another spot that is pet-friendly.
Occasionally, we’ve been offered accommodation, told that they love dogs, BUT they just can’t allow them inside. Sora is, however, welcome to stay tied up in the yard all day and all night. Uh, no thanks.
Laughably, we’ve been asked some rather strange questions in response to our pet-friendly inquiry, including, but not limited to: will we take her outside to go to the bathroom? As though we wouldn’t mind her dropping a deuce on our pillow. Will she roam the hallways unattended? The first question always pertains to her size. Is she big? Oh, then no, we don’t allow dogs. Because bigger dogs cause more mess?
I don’t always understand the logic behind some of the questions and responses we receive, but our goal isn’t to understand, it’s to find a place to sleep for the night.
After two years on the road, we’ve come to rely on a few tips that help us find hotels that allow. They’re not always 100% successful, but they have reduced the number of hours spent knocking on doors in towns we don’t know.
Rarely has a campground turned us down. At times, camping was our only option in Chile, which we found to be the most un-pet-friendly country of all of our travels.
In order to avoid having to knock on doors for lengthy periods of time, which we’ve had the pleasure of doing in Chile and Cusco, Peru, we often book ahead when we have a set arrival date into a city. Booking.com is great, as you can filter by pet-friendly to see what is available. AirBnB hosts may also be open to discussing the possibility of allowing a dog, even if they have not checked the pet-friendly option. If I really like a place, I never hesitate to shoot the host an email.
Tip: Be sure to read the fine print. Some places indicate that they are pet-friendly, but require prior approval. Or you’ll arrive and find out they only permit small dogs. Be sure to include in your notes that you have your well-behaved pup along and call ahead before booking if you have doubts.
For a list of pet-friendly accommodations in South America, check out our posts that highlight amazing dog-friendly stays.
Locate the Foreigners
While this method isn’t always foolproof and really only pertains to those traveling outside of their home country, it has helped us out on occasion in certain countries. We’ve certainly been turned down by foreigners (both times in Chile, both times by German owners, which may be entirely coincidental), but more often than not, foreigners tend to carry different views on animals as pets than the locals.
This app was created to assist overlanders find places to camp that will fit their rigs or provide their necessities, but it’s quite popular among cycle tourists as well. Users can leave reviews of an accommodation and indicate amenities among a variety of categories including, WiFi, hot showers, camping space, water potability, and of course, pet-friendliness. iOverlander works offline and has become our go-to source before we head into a new town.
Avoid Chains Look for Dog-Friendly Chains While some chain hotels like Kimpton and La Quinta are pet-friendly, many are not. Chains tend to have stricter pet policies across the entire business, whereas local or smaller regional chains may be more open to bending the rules or creating new ones on the spot.
Edited: OK so many many many of you said that you look for chains because you know which ones are dog-friendly and they often offer loyalty points, so I stand corrected! I mentioned La Quinta and Kimpton above, and others mentioned Red Roof Inn, and Aloft. GoPetFriendly discusses the policies for some of these mentioned as well as others here. That mentioned, keep an eye out for additional charges and policies regarding maximum size allotted at varying hotels. I will still attest that in our experience, smaller, local hotels are more lenient to any rules and tend to be more willing to accommodate your pet.
Prepare Your Spiel
Unless you know in advance that a hotel offers pet-friendly accommodation, you may have to do some convincing. In places like South America, people know dogs as those dirty, untrained creatures roaming the streets and getting into the trash. Rarely have they seen a well-behaved dog who obeys commands.
Whether you’re traveling through somewhere like the US or Europe or South America, describing your pet’s behavior can go a long way. Our spiel goes something like this: “she is well-behaved, educated, does not bark, is on a leash, has her own dog bed, and house-trained.” Then we show them Sora so they can see that she is clean, and if we really need to do convince them, then we put on a show of her tricks.
Find Your Tribe
The Animal Travelers Facebook Group has been hugely helpful for all things related to traveling with a pet, and especially so when we were planning our trip to Machu Picchu. One traveler had begun a conversation about how to visit the site with a dog, others chimed in with their advice and mentioned pet-friendly accommodations in Aguas Calientes, the launching point for Machu Picchu. While we still had to do much of our own planning for the trip, we had several tips in our back pocket from the group on how to navigate getting to Machu Picchu with a dog.
Should you plan your own trip to Machu Picchu with a dog, read my comprehensive guide on how we planned our trip, from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and everything in between in my blog post How to Visit Machu Picchu with a Dog.
Often, we are the first guests to ever ask about staying with a pet, which can leave hotel staff confused or unsure how to respond. Asking past hotels where you have stayed to provide references is a great way to establish your credibility and prove that your pup does not cause any problems.
Before leaving a hotel, ask a member of the staff to write a short review about your stay on company letterhead. Show this whenever you need to do a bit more persuasion.